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The Life of Lord Byron By John Galt Characters: 8586

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Proceed from Keratéa to Cape Colonna-Associations connected with the Spot-Second-hearing of the Albanians-Journey to Marathon-Effect of his Adventures on the Mind of the Poet-Return to Athens-I join the Travellers there-Maid of Athens

From Keratéa the travellers proceeded to Cape Colonna, by the way of Katapheke. The road was wild and rude, but the distant view of the ruins of the temple of Minerva, standing on the loneliness of the promontory, would have repaid them for the trouble, had the road been even rougher.

This once elegant edifice was of the Doric order, a hexastyle, the columns twenty-seven feet in height. It was built entirely of white marble, and esteemed one of the finest specimens of architecture. The rocks on which the remains stand are celebrated alike by the English and the Grecian muses; for it was amid them that Falconer laid the scene of his Shipwreck; and the unequalled description of the climate of Greece, in The Giaour, was probably inspired there, although the poem was written in London. It was also here, but not on this occasion, that the poet first became acquainted with the Albanian belief in second-hearing, to which he alludes in the same poem:

Deep in whose darkly-boding ear

The death-shot peal'd of murder near.

"This superstition of a second-hearing," says Lord Byron, "fell once under my own observation. On my third journey to Cape Colonna, as we passed through the defile that leads from the hamlet between Keratéa and Colonna, I observed Dervish Tahiri (one of his Albanian servants) riding rather out of the path, and leaning his head upon his hand as if in pain. I rode up and inquired. 'We are in peril!' he answered. 'What peril? we are not now in Albania, nor in the passes to Ephesus, Missolonghi, or Lepanto; there are plenty of us well armed, and the Choriotes have not courage to be thieves.'-'True, Affendi; but, nevertheless, the shot is ringing in my ears.'-'The shot! not a tophaike has been fired this morning.'-'I hear it, notwithstanding-bom-bom-as plainly as I hear your voice.'-'Bah.'-'As you please, Affendi; if it is written, so will it be.'

"I left this quick-eared predestinarian, and rode up to Basili, his Christian compatriot, whose ears, though not at all prophetic, by no means relished the intelligence. We all arrived at Colonna, remained some hours, and returned leisurely, saying a variety of brilliant things, in more languages than spoiled the building of Babel, upon the mistaken seer; Romaic, Arnaout, Turkish, Italian, and English were all exercised, in various conceits, upon the unfortunate Mussulman. While we were contemplating the beautiful prospect, Dervish was occupied about the columns. I thought he was deranged into an antiquarian, and asked him if he had become a palaocastro man. 'No,' said he, 'but these pillars will be useful in making a stand' and added some remarks, which at least evinced his own belief in his troublesome faculty of fore-hearing.

"On our return to Athens we heard from Leoné (a prisoner set on shore some days after) of the intended attack of the Mainotes, with the cause of its not taking place. I was at some pains to question the man, and he described the dresses, arms, and marks of the horses of our party so accurately, that, with other circumstances, we could not doubt of his having been in 'villainous company,' and ourselves in a bad neighbourhood. Dervish became a soothsayer for life, and I dare say is now hearing more musketry than ever will be fired, to the great refreshment of the Arnaouts of Berat and his native mountains.

"In all Attica, if we except Athens itself, and Marathon," Byron remarks, "there is no scene more interesting than Cape Colonna. To the antiquary and artist, sixteen columns are an inexhaustible source of observation and design; to the philosopher the supposed scene of some of Plato's conversations will not be unwelcome; and the traveller will be struck with the prospect over 'Isles that crown the ?gean deep.' But, for an Englishman, Colonna has yet an additional interest in being the actual spot of Falconer's Shipwreck. Pallas and Plato are forgotten in the recollection of Falconer and Campbell.

"There, in the dead of night, by Donna's steep,

The seamen's cry was heard along the deep

."

From the ruins of the temple the travellers returned to Keratéa, by the eastern coast of Attica, passing through that district of country where the silver mines are situated; which, according to Sir George Wheler, were worked with some success about a hundred and fifty years ago. They then set out for Marathon, taking Rapthi in their way; where, in the lesser port, on a steep rocky island, they beheld, from a distance, the remains of a colossal statue. They did not, however, actually inspect it, but it has been visited by other travellers, who have described it to be of white marble, sedent on a pedestal. The head and arms are broken off; but when entire, it is conjectured to have been twelve feet in height. As they were passing round the shore they heard the barking of dogs, and a shout from a shepherd, and on looking round saw a large dun-coloured wolf, galloping slowly through the bushes.

Such incidents and circumstances, in the midst of the most romantic scenery of the world, with wild and lawless companions, and a constant sense of danger, were full of poetry, and undoubtedly contributed to the formation of the peculiar taste of Byron's genius. As it has been said of Salvator Rosa, the painter, that he derived the characteristic savage force of his pencil from his youthful adventures with banditti; it may be added of Byron, that much of his most distinguished power was the result of his adventures as a traveller in Greece. His mind and memory were filled with stores of the fittest imagery, to supply becoming backgrounds and appendages, to the characters and enterprises which he afterward depicted with such truth of nature and poetical effect.

After leaving Rapthi, keeping Mount Pentilicus on the left, the travellers came in sight of the ever-celebrated Plain of Marathon. The evening being advanced, they passed the barrow of the Athenian slain unnoticed, but next morning they examined minutely the field of battle, and fancied they had made antiquarian discoveries. In their return to Athens they inspected the different objects of research and fragments of antiquity, which still attract travellers, and with the help of Chandler and Pausanias, endeavoured to determine the local habitation and the name of many things, of which the traditions have perished and the forms have relapsed into rock.

Soon after their arrival at Athens, Mr Hobhouse left Lord Byron to visit the Negropont, where he was absent some few days. I think he had only been back three or four when I arrived from Zante. My visit to Athens at that period was accidental. I had left Malta with the intention of proceeding to Candia, by Specia, and Idra; but a dreadful storm drove us up the Adriatic, as far as Valona; and in returning, being becalmed off the Island of Zante, I landed there, and allowed the ship, with my luggage, to proceed to her destination, having been advised to go on by the Gulf of Corinth to Athens; from which place, I was informed, there would be no difficulty in recovering my trunks.

In carrying this arrangement into effect, I was induced to go aside from the direct route, and to visit Velhi Pasha, at Tripolizza, to whom I had letters. Returning by Argos and Corinth, I crossed the isthmus, and taking the road by Megara, reached Athens on the 20th of February. In the course of this journey, I heard of two English travellers being in the city; and on reaching the convent of the Propaganda, where I had been advised to take up my lodgings, the friar in charge of the house informed me of their names. Next morning, Mr Hobhouse, having heard of my arrival, kindly called on me, and I accompanied him to Lord Byron, who then lodged with the widow of a Greek, who had been British Consul. She was, I believe, a respectable person, with several daughters; one of whom has been rendered more famous by his Lordship's verses than her degree of beauty deserved. She was a pale and pensive-looking girl, with regular Grecian features. Whether he really cherished any sincere attachment to her I much doubt. I believe his passion was equally innocent and poetical, though he spoke of buying her from her mother. It was to this damsel that he addressed the stanzas beginning,

Maid of Athens, ere we part,

Give, oh! give me back my heart.

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